IN AMERICAN terms, Charleston (founded 1670) is an ancient town, densely packed and well preserved. Lately, though, the new is mounting a healthy challenge to the old in the South Carolina metropolis. Six major airlines fly directly to what was once a poky airport. An excitable entrepreneurial spirit, celebrating products made in the south, has infused the “Holy City,” home to some 400 places of worship. Design shops are flourishing: You see the placard for Glenn Keyes Architects, specialists in historic preservation, hanging from many an under-renovation piazza. And at Fritz & Porter Design Collective, in an old cigar factory, 19th-century oil paintings share floorspace with the Shelter Collection’s 21st-century ceramics (5). Then there’s the food. In every setting from a converted antebellum home (Chez Nous) to an old gas station (Xiao Bao Biscuit), the culinary scene has turned humble cooks into local celebrities and is transforming the city’s upper peninsula, where not long ago, you’d only go to rent a U-Haul, into a destination in its own right. We asked four notable locals for their favorite things.
— Christian L. Wright
Touring Charleston, S.C.
Four clued-in locals share their favorite spots in town
THE WINE MERCHANT
Owner of Grassroots Wine and Rosé de Printemps
SHELL FAME // Leon’s Oyster Shop
The grilled oysters at Leon’s are kind of classic NOLA style, garlicky, with lots of butter and cheese. 698 King St., leonsoystershop.com
HIT LIST // Charleston Grill
There are lots of fantastic wine lists in Charleston, but you’ll find the best one (and three advanced sommeliers) at Charleston Grill, a bit off the radar in the Belmond Charleston Place hotel. 224 King St., charlestongrill.com
SIXTIES SWIG // Living Room at the Dewberry Hotel
In a 1964 federal building that overlooks Marion Square. It’s so sexy and cool, you’ll feel like you’re on the set of Mad Men. 334 Meeting St., thedewberrycharleston.com
STOCK MARKET // Farmers Market
For brunch on Saturdays, visit the market downtown. There are six food-truck-style stands. I lean toward the Banh Mi. Marion Square, 329 Meeting St., charlestonfarmersmarket.com
Owner of Ann Long Fine Art
TIME WELL SPENT // Historic District
I particularly like the churchyards of St. Michael’s, St. Philip’s, the Unitarian Church and First Scots, and the working garden behind the 1772 Heyward- Washington House. 87 Church St.
SHOP TALK // King Street’s Antique Dealers
Stop in at Alexandra AD for Northern European pieces (156 King St., alexandrafrenchantiques.com), Tucker Payne for English and American (169 King St., tuckerpayneantiques.com) and at affable John Pope’s for his eclectic collection (180 King St., johnpopeantiques.com).
THE DISPLAY OF AFFECTION // The Gibbes Museum of Art
It’s home to 18th- and 19th-century Charleston furniture and not-to-be-missed portraits such as Childe Hassam’s “April (The Green Gown).” 135 Meeting St., gibbesmuseum.org
HIGH STANDARDS // RTW
At this jewel box of a designer boutique, you’re greeted by two standard poodles. 186 King St., rtwcharleston.com
THE COUNTRY SINGER
Former frontman for Hootie & the Blowfish, just out with his fifth solo album, ‘When Was The Last Time’
SEA SONGS // The Windjammer
Local and some national bands come through. Being on the beach, sitting outside on that deck, it’s so cool. Have a wine and watch the sun go down. 1008 Ocean Blvd., Isle of Palms, the-windjammer.com.
I also like the Music Farm. I saw Toad the Wet Sprocket there. 32 Ann St., musicfarm.com.
VINYL TAP // Monster Music
It’s by the mall [in the West Ashley district]. It has new records but also a huge used selection. I got a Rave-Ups record and a Rainmakers’ record. Oh man, no one has those! 946 Orleans Rd., monstermusicsc.com
STAND AND DELIVER // Boiled Peanuts
It’s funny, I have a group of friends that always make me bring them boiled peanuts. They’re sold on stands on the side of the road, in somebody’s driveway. You can buy them anywhere.
BITE OF PASSAGE // FIG
The best place in town—amazing food and service. My favorite dish is the ricotta gnocchi and lamb Bolognese starter. If you can’t get a table, just go and sit at the bar at 5:30. 232 Meeting St., eatatfig.com
Professional tennis player
FUN RUN // The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
I love running over the Ravenel Bridge, especially at sunrise. Some of the most spectacular views of Charleston can be seen from the span. cooperriverbridge.org
HIDE AND SEEK // Longitude Lane
There are these little alleys downtown with cobblestones and historical architecture along the way. I used to walk through one called Longitude Lane every week when I was in elementary school. It brings back a lot of great memories.
NO-RISK BISQUE // Magnolia’s
It’s excellent for brunch. Shrimp and grits, pimento cheese, blue crab bisque, crab cakes…you can’t go wrong. 185 East Bay St., magnoliascharleston.com
STRAW VOTE // Sweetgrass Baskets
They are handcrafted masterpieces. No two are alike. They’re absolutely gorgeous, a trademark souvenir from Charleston. 188 Meeting St., thecharlestoncitymarket.com/main/sweetgrass-baskets
Plus, Don’t Miss:
White Point Garden: Stroll past the gnarled oaks along paths paved with oyster shells. charlestonparksconservancy.org
Goat. Sheep. Cow.: A little fromagerie that opened downtown in 2011 has expanded to a brasserie on the upper peninsula with a marble bar; excellent wines and retail, too. 804 Meeting St. goatsheepcow.com
The Charleston Museum: Founded in 1773 and opened to the public in 1824, it’s one of the country’s oldest museums. 360 Meeting St., charlestonmuseum.org
Rodney Scott’s BBQ: Rodney is known as a pork guy, but his spicy ribeye sandwich is worth a detour. 1011 King St., rodneyscottsbbq.com
Wentworth Mansion: For some old-world hotel grandeur, get one of the rooms with a chandelier and fireplace. From about $ 330 a night, wentworthmansion.com
Corrections & Amplifications
An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of a restaurant in Charleston. The restaurant is Xiao Bao Biscuit, not Xao Bao Biscuit. (November 8, 2017)
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